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ORLANDO-Without denying any wrongdoing, Universal Orlando has settled an eight-month-old Orange Circuit Court civil lawsuit for $85,000 with New York businessman Gilbert Feliciano who charged Universal stole his idea six years ago for the two-level, 22,000-sf Latin Quarter restaurant in the two-million-sf CityWalk retail-themed attraction.

Feliciano’s lawyer, Willie Gary of Stuart, FL, had initially sought $500 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

Gary was part of the Johnny Cochran legal team that successfully defended retired football player O.J. Simpson on murder charges in 1995 in Los Angeles.

Feliciano’s suit alleges he met with executives at Universal City Development Partners in 1996 and proposed opening Café Caliente, an Hispanic-themed restaurant at CityWalk.

Universal rejected the concept but later used the same ambience and theme for its successful Latin Quarter establishment, the suit alleges. Universal denies the charges in court-filed responses.

GlobeSt.com couldn’t reach Gary, Feliciano or University officials. But theme park staffers familiar with the litigation tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity Universal settled to avoid a protracted and legal battle that could have cost more than $85,000.

For Universal, it was the second settled lawsuit in a week. On Aug. 15, the park won a final Orange Circuit Court judgment in an eight-year-old fight over a disputed two-acre tract on a prime 70-acre parcel slated to become a $100 million timeshare development.

For Gary, the Universal settlement was the second victory over a theme park major in a year. In 2001, he won a $240 million judgment against Walt Disney World after his Canadian client charged Disney with stealing the idea for its 500-acre Wide World of Sports complex. Disney is appealing the judgment.

Universal’s Latin Quarter settlement comes as its parent, Paris-based Vivendi Universal, announces plans to sell Universal Orlando. Published sources estimate the 2,500-acre theme park would carry a price tag of at least $20 billion.

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